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Q1  Learning to read and write

Q2  What is the Literacy Hour?

How will the hour be divided?
What do older children do in the Literacy Hour?
How will I know what progress my child is making?

Q3  What is baseline assessment?

Q1    Learning to read and write

Reading, writing, talking and listening are key parts of what children learn in their first years at school. All the learning they do at home with you and at school with their teacher helps children to:
want to read
enjoy talking about what they read and telling people what they think
find things out by reading from stories, information books, catalogues or newspapers
learn new words
get their ideas across in writing
understand that people write in different ways for different reasons
spell words correctly and write clearly
read and write confidently

Q2   What is the Literacy Hour?

The Literacy Hour is part of a Government initiative called the National Literacy Strategy. The Government were worried that children were leaving primary school without the necessary basic skills. The Literacy Hour is an attempt to raise standards in children's basic literacy skills.

From September 1998, all primary schools will teach literacy, i.e. reading, writing, speaking and listening, for one hour each day.

Teachers have been given a Framework for Teaching that sets out, in detail, what the children need to learn in that hour.
Schools that have already tried the Literacy Hour find that it works well and leads to improvements in the standard of children's reading and writing.

How will the hour be divided?

It is usually divided into four parts:
1 Whole class: 15 minutes shared reading and writing
2 Whole class: 15 minutes word and sentence work
3 Small groups: 20 minutes guided reading or writing
4 Whole class: 10 minutes reporting back and thinking about what has been learned

Whole class
With young children the teacher works with the whole class for the first half-hour. He or she may begin by reading with all the children, using a 'big book'. First, the teacher will read the book aloud, and point to the words and pictures. Then s/he will read it again and the children will join in. The teacher will ask questions and encourage the children to think about what they read.

Questions might be:
Where is the title of the book?
What do you think the story will be about?
What do you think will happen next?
What does that word mean?
Did you find any parts of the book funny?
Why was that part funny?
Can you tell us about something funny that has happened to you?

The teacher's questions will help the children to understand the meaning of the story, poem or text. S/he will also teach them basic reading and writing skills. For example:

to know that the words go from left to right
to see where one word ends and the next word begins
to recognise letters and words
to hear the sounds of letters
to recognise words or sounds that rhyme
to know about full stops, commas and other punctuation

Group work
In the next part of the hour, the class is split up into different groups (of about four to six children). The teacher plans work for each group and will encourage them to work independently while s/he gives their attention to one particular group each day.
Groups are given activities related to the whole class work that was introduced at the beginning of the hour.

Whole class
For the last part of the Literacy Hour the teacher works with the whole class again. S/he asks the children to discuss what they have been doing and to review what they have learned.

What do older children do in the Literacy Hour?

As children become independent readers and writers, they work on more complex books. Each term they read different kinds of books: information books, legends, stories, poems, plays and diaries.

They learn to spell more difficult words. They learn how sentences and paragraphs are put together. They draft and edit their writing, which might be a news article, a set of instructions, a description, a letter or a story.

How will I know what progress my child is making?

Your child's teacher will talk with you about the progress your child is making. S/he will also set targets.

For a young child this might be:

to learn five letters of the alphabet
to leave spaces between words
to tell the story in their own words

For an older child it might be:

to explain what a person in a story is like
to write in paragraphs
to learn how to spell a number of words
to take notes as they watch a video

Your child's school will let you know what your child is working towards. They may ask you to help by:

practising with them to help them reach their target
praising them when they reach it

Your child's teacher will also let you know about other ways in which you can help. S/he may:

send books home and ask you to read them with your child
ask for parents' help in school
hold meetings or courses for parents who want to know more
explain the school's homework policy and ask for parents' support

Q3   What is baseline assessment?

Baseline assessment has been introduced into schools to assess children starting at primary school. The assessment will help in planning children's learning and the measurement of their future progress. It also ensures an equal entitlement for all children to be assessed on entry to school. It is carried out by the class teacher about seven weeks after the children enter school and includes: reading for meaning and enjoyment, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, writing, speaking and listening, numbers, using mathematical language and personal and social development.

Within each category there are a series of items that children are assessed on. For each successful completion of the item a point is scored. There is a possible score of 32.

As you can see it is a very objective system, based on specific criteria which is 'marked'. Once all the assessments have been completed the class teacher is in a position to interpret the individual scores of children. The results are used to help plan appropriately for individual children's needs, alongside other information gained through observation and knowledge of the child since they have been in the class. The results are also used to monitor children's progress and to review curriculum planning and class grouping.

If you would like a copy of the booklet Baseline Assessment Scales, which contains individual descriptions of scales and items to be assessed, you can contact QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) Publications on 01787 884444. The reference number of the publication is COM/97/809. This will also give you some information about what the class teacher will look for when working with each individual child.


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